I Left My Heart and Soul in Batanes (Part 1: Where to Stay and What to See in South Batan)
|Tayid Lighthouse in Mahatao, Batan Island, Batanes|
They say Batanes is breathtaking...and it is. It really is. From the time the plane starts its descent, you can already see the vast paradise waiting to envelope you in its captivating allure. The lush greenery, the bright blue waters, and the picture-perfect vista -- it is beautiful in all sense of the word.
No wonder, people are exerting effort to score modestly-priced flights to this destination. Why not? A regular roundtrip ticket can reach as high as Php 15,000, as against Php 2,000-3,500 that are usually being offered during major travel expos! All you need is patience! Well, a lot of it.
My husband was one of those who braved the long lines at the Travel Expo last September 2014. Lo and behold, after scouting around, he got Basco-bound tickets via Philippine Airlines for both of us at Php 2,200 each, roundtrip. What a steal, right? We were kinda hesitant to book it since the travel dates available were June and we thought it's already rainy season by that time, but in the end we decided to take the risk.
June 13, we boarded a plane bound for Basco. We were at the NAIA Terminal 3 as early as 3:00 am, and the plane took off on schedule. The one-hour-and-45-minute flight seems long, especially for two eager travelers like us who were so excited to see Batanes for the first time.
On our final approach, the aircraft flew over the majestic islands of Vuhus and Adekey (also Dequey), two of Batanes' westernmost islands. I was already in awe when I caught a glimpse of these two majestic islands. The water was so clear that we could see the rocks and corals beneath even from an altitude.
|Clearer views closer to Basco Airport|
|Room # 2 can accommodate up to 3 persons|
|Room #2 has its own toilet and bath|
|The common living room|
|Free flying fish breakfast!|
The usual tours around Batanes are North Batan (half day), South Batan (whole day), and Sabtang Island day or overnight tours. Guests can also explore the island of Itbayat on a good weather, as well as the uninhabited Vuhus Island, which is perfect for diving and snorkeling. Tour packages starts at Php 5,200 (joining tours for North Batan, South Batan, and Sabtang day tour including lunch, land and sea transfers). A joining tour is an arrangement where you share a van or a bigger mode of transportation with other groups to cut costs. Private tours are also available at a higher rate and is best for big groups. It is also advisable that you book your tours at legitimate local tour operators than hiring a tricycle whose driver also doubles as a tour guide for safety purposes. It may be a bit pricier but it's a lot safer and fuzz-free, trust me! Please note that majority of the roads in Batanes are steep and winding, so better be safe than sorry. It's okay to take a tricycle but it will be better if you come with a separate tour guide other than the driver himself.
For tour arrangements, the Heritage and Tourism Office can help you, as well as other privately-owned agencies like Ryan Cardona's BISUMI Tours & Services. We tried both: our tour of North and South Batan was through the tourism office while our trip to Sabtang and Vuhus Islands was taken care of BISUMI Tours & Services.
Exploring South Batan
At 11:00 am, our charming guide, Cindy Labrador, fetched us from Palangud Homestay. Cindy works at the Heritage and Tourism Office. It was already sunny when we went out (btw, June is still summer in Batanes, contrary to what we believe that it's already rainy around this time. Rainy season starts at around July). Along the way, we couldn't help but be mesmerised by the stunning views. It's beautiful everywhere we looked. Breathtaking, indeed!
Our first stop was the Chawa View Deck, a 150-step stairs made of rocks that lead to the sea. You can go down to explore the cave, which, as the locals say, is enchanted and being protected by the anitos (spirits), and just frolic in water. This viewpoint in the town of Mahatao is also a perfect spot to view the sunset. If you have more time towards the end of your tour, you can request to go back here to take snapshots of the sunset. There's a fee being collected by the LGU (Php 50 per person).
|Chawa View Deck|
|Can you see the cave?|
|Mahatao Boat Shelter|
|Still part of the shelter. Noticed the newly-built lighthouse?|
|A bridge built during the Spanish era|
The San Carlos Borromeo Church may not look as old as the other churches in the Philippines built during the time of the Spaniards, but it sure has a lot of stories to tell. In 2001, it was declared by the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts as one of the 26 churches recognized as cultural icons because of their beauty and state of preservation. The church was built by Fr. Cresencio Polo in 1873. It is also within the vicinity of this church where you can find two old Spanish lighthouses.
|San Carlos Borromeo Church|
|The church features cogon roof|
I took the chance to write in one of the books, numbered 118, and wrote my thoughts about Batanes. Hopefully, it'll still be there when I go back to explore Itbayat and other marine sanctuaries in the province.
|The entrance to the Blank Book Archives|
|This is it!|
|Homoron Whote Beach|
|Homoron Blue Lagoon|
|The other side of the beach|
Still, we were awestruck with all the beautiful views we saw along the way. At one point, we could see a glimpse of Dinem and Itbayat Islands in the horizon, flashing against calm waters.
|Dinem Island in the background|
|House of Dakay|
|San Jose de Ivana Church|
|The church's interiors|
Right in front of the church is the Ivana Port where faluwas (round-bottomed boats that don't have outriggers) to and from Sabtang Island dock. Boat trips are usually scheduled early in the morning to avoid huge waves and strong water current.
|Honesty Coffee Shop|
|Inside the Honesty Coffee Shop|
|Highway? More fun in Batanes!|
|The entrance to Song Song Ruins|
|Another beach along the way|
|Beside Alapad Rock|
|And of course, I couldn't resist striking a pose, too!|
From Marlboro Country, we could already see the Tayid Lighthouse amidst lush greenery. Again, it was breathtaking!
Guests who availed of the packaged tours usually have their lunch in Marlboro Country.
|A view of Tayid Lighthouse from Marlboro Country|
A 30-minute hike from Diura Fishing Village leads to the Fountain of Youth, a spot that has an infinity pool, which uses spring water, another perfect venue to watch the spectacular Batanes sunset. We did not go all the way up, though.
|Houses at Diura Fishing Village|
|Drenching Dorado with the scorching heat of the sun|
|Still at the fishing village|
Our last stop for the South Batan tour was the Tayid Lighthouse. Unlike other lighthouses, this privately owned lighthouse is hexagonal in shape, perfect as a backdrop for pictorials and even events such as destination weddings. The spot where the lighthouse stands commands a panoramic view of the hills and the boundless ocean. It was built in 2000.
|More greens at the Tayid Lighthouse|
|Always blow your horn|
|String beans with minced pork|
|Sweet and sour fish|
Up next: Sabtang and Vuhus Island
Palangud Homestay (formerly Nanay Cita's Homestay)
Brgy. Kaychanarianan, Basco, Batanes (at the back of Marfel's Lodge Annex)
PGO-Heritage and Tourism Office
1/F Provincial Capitol Complex, Basco, Batanes
BISUMI Tours and Services
+63919.279.5963 / +63915.803.4582